Park Theatre – until 6 November 2021
Reviewed by Claire Roderick
Part of Park Theatre’s Say it, Women double bill, Sold tells the story of Mary Prince. Mary’s account of her life was the first by a black woman to be published in the UK.
In Bermuda, Cup Weekend is a huge celebration that takes place at the end of July. The Thursday is Emancipation Day, and the Friday was Somers Day, named after the admiral who founded Bermuda. In 2020 Somers Day was renamed Mary Prince Day – after seeing this play, you’ll want to give her a whole month.
Kuumba Nia Arts’ production of Amantha Edmead’s play is brutally beautiful – portraying the inhumanity shown to slaves and Mary’s strength to endure.
Directed by Euton Daley, Edmead plays all the characters in Mary’s story, accompanied by Angie Amra Anderson on drums. Mixing dance and spoken word with the drama, Mary’s life, from her birth in Bermuda and her innocent happiness at being a little girl’s slave/pet to violent masters and mistresses in Turks & Caicos and Antigua. Edmead slips between characters seamlessly, with there never being a doubt of who she is portraying each time. The beatings and lashings are performed magnificently by Edmead, with her physicality breath-taking at times. The drumming becomes almost unbearable during these scenes, but happier beats and moments are found by Mary amongst the violence and exhaustion.
Mary joining the Moravian Church is a wonderfully uplifting scene, with her joking that she didn’t know how much of a sinner she was until she joined, and then Anderson leading the audience in singing hymns. Mary’s marriage to Daniel James, a freed slave, isn’t accepted by her owners, who do not want a black man on their property, or thinking he has rights to their property – Mary. Their refusal to let Mary buy her freedom continues cruelly as they move to London, taking Mary with them despite her illness and separating her from her husband. Mary’s scribe is full of well meaning but condescending outrage at the plight of the slaves – tellingly insisting it is a horror perpetrated by English men living in the West Indies, not in good old Blighty.
Horrifying but uplifting, and performed with infectious passion, Sold is a story that needs to be shared.